The six weeks we spent in Spain before moving to Barcelona helped prepare me a little for the wines of Spain, but I must admit, I definitely wasn’t prepared for what is now synonymous with Catalan cuisine: vermouth.

In the U.S., vermouth is a mixer for cocktails like the Manhattan or Martini. In Spain, vermouth is a drink served with ice and garnished with a slice of orange and an olive. It is enjoyed alongside conservas: mussels, clams, or cockles that were tinned immediately after being caught. Something magical happens in that tin. I don’t know what, but it’s magic for sure: the final product is a delicious, sweet and slightly salty treat that goes perfectly with the sweet vermouth.

Vermut

Vermouth and conservas were the closest I could get to a detox after three weeks of French food! (Those curried olives, on the left? Increible!)

I know that Spain and sangria go hand-in-hand for many, but if you’re planning a visit to Barcelona, skip the sangria and give vermouth (in Catalan, vermut) a try. It’s a staple of the region: Catalans joke that vermouth is to be drunk on Sundays from 12 to 3; in fact, vermuterias are one of the few restaurants actually open on Sundays, which is perhaps a testament to the popularity of this ritual. If you’re new to the vermut tradition, begin with the most famous: the vermouth and conservas from Espinaler. Make sure to also douse your potato chips in the Espinaler sauce: the vinegar is a nice touch to the potato chips, and goes well with the sweet vermouth and salty seafood.

Fun fact: the word “vermouth” actually comes from the German word vermut, which means “wormwood” in German. (Wormwood is, of course, what absinthe is derived from.) You won’t find wormwood in today’s vermouth, but you can find nearly one hundred other ingredients: the recipe differs at each house.

Click here to learn a little more about how vermouth is made.